Girls STEM Academy, LSMAMP participants at Jackson State University experience the excitement of science

(JACKSON, Miss.) — In an effort to bolster interest in STEM, the College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET) invited 15 female and male students to participate in the annual summer Girls STEM Academy and the Louis Stokes Mississippi Alliances for Minority Participation (LSMAMP) program.

Students experienced virual reality while participating in Jackson State University’s Girls STEM Academy and the Louis Stokes Mississippi Alliances for Minority Participation program. (Photo by William H. Kelly III/JSU)

Dr. Martha Tchounwou, director of Student Support Services in CSET, described this year’s program a success after a previous setback caused by the pandemic. Students, many of whom will become future JSU Tigers, traveled from as far as Washington, D.C. Others represented nearby areas such as Madison and Clinton. While some of the students were 10th-graders, nearly half were seniors in the LSMAMP program.

“This year, the students got a chance to get out and have fun learning science, chemistry, math, biology, physics, computer science, engineering and coding.” Tchounwou also said participants used their newly acquired skills to learn, build and show, for example, how traffic lights work. “I’m so proud of all they’ve accomplished.”

CSET student counselors helped the students with academic and life skills that included Girls Talk, a session that allowed them to “address topics they don’t normally discuss,” said Jaidyn Thomas of Dallas, a sophomore computer science major.

Summer STEM participants at JSU learned about 3D modeling in JSU’s Center for Innovation. They used shapes and lines to create architectural designs. (Photo by William H. Kelly III/JSU)

Thomas said the summer program provides a jumpstart as participants prepare to further their education. “Students in the Girls STEM Academy are learning physics, engineering, ACT Prep and Calculus that’s going to prepare them later in high school and college.”

She said the program has been beneficial to her as well. “I’m learning how to communicate with older girls and how to work with people around my age.”

Another counselor, graduate student Hervey Tchounwou, helped students in his engineering field. “A lot of these high school students have not been exposed to some of the things they’re learning in this program. We just teach them the basic fundamentals; we want to make the coursework fun and enjoyable.” He said it’s important for African Americans, in general, but specifically urged women to embrace STEM because of a national shortage to fill future jobs.

Meanwhile, Martha Tchounwou, mother of Hervey, said she foresees the program growing. She wants others to realize the importance and urgency of women in STEM. The summer Girls STEM program is available to rising 10th graders who are interested in science.

“We have a minority shortage. The more girls that we have in science will mean the future will reflect everybody. We’re excited we’re able to introduce them to STEM.”

Both programs are funded by the National Science Foundation. Support is also provided by Nissan and JSU. Like the Girls STEM Academy, LSMAMP desires to increase the quality and quantity of students successfully completing baccalaureate degree programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. LSMAMP also aims to help young people matriculate into graduate study programs.